Life in Cyprus - April 2003

1st April:

I made some lemon curd today. It's really very easy, and although it's high fat, it does at least contain eggs for protein, and of course lots of lemon juice. Unfortunately it must have been a couple of years (or more) since I last made lemon curd. I did it in the litre pyrex jug, and at the last moment it boiled over and made quite a mess in the microwave. I'm certain I made it in a pyrex jug before, but it must have been when I still had a two litre one. I wish I could find one now that's the same kind of shape -  short and wide, to fit in the microwave.

In the afternoon I went out to do some more weeding in the front garden, and got rid of a load more snails and weeds, then transplanted a red geranium and the best of the ornamental pepper plants into the border by the drive. It looks a bit better - I must make an effort to keep it weed-free. It's been pleasantly warm and sunny, with the gorgeous scent of orange blossom everywhere.. though I wonder if that's what's been giving us tired, itchy eyes lately. Apparently a mild allergy to orange blossom is not uncommon.

2nd April:

Richard managed to start the car, thank goodness, and got it to the electrical mechanic, who fixed it for 20, so that's good. Apparently they don't yet have the part for fixing the rear light, and the rest of the MOT stuff can't be done till he runs it out of petrol and then fills up with unleaded fuel.. which apparently it should have had all along!!! We heard that the UK had a record warm March this year - amazing, given that we must have had a record COLD March, as well as wet.

3rd April:

We went out early, to a gardening/electrical shop and finally bought a sickle. Richard chose the more vicious looking one - I'd have gone for a less curved one without a sharp point. However he wasn't sure if that was appropriate. We also got a sharpening stone. I spent a couple of hours using the sickle on the couch-grass, and began to get the technique right - but it's going to be a long job. Nowhere near as smooth and easy as I'd hoped. I cut down all the weeds around the lemon tree stump, and got rid of another bagful of snails that were hiding on the tree behind the weeds. It got warm enough to do without a sweatshirt for a while.

6th April:

Did yet more weed-cutting with the sickle after church, had another bonfire, and did a load more weeding. Dan moved some of the branches that were blocking the den entrance and I managed to weed and clear rubbish from the outer bit; both boys worked at getting weeds down in the other longer entrance. Got rid of yet more snails - another two bags full in all, I think, and an entire bag of rubbish from the den. There's at least one more bag there. Richard cut down the dead branch from the lemon tree, and pruned several branches from the pomegranate tree nearest the garage, most of which ended up on the bonfire too. By the time I'd finished I was covered in scratches, bites and stings, and even a bit of sunburn on my arms!

9th April:

the garden in April 2003, looking fairly tidyYesterday afternoon I spent about three hours in the garden, helped much of the time by the boys. Dan invented a way to extend the rake, and then worked hard pulling up masses of weeds from near the old lady's house, far more rapidly than I could have done. Both of them did a lot more clearing up in the den, too, Dan taking some of the pomegranate branches that hadn't burned, and also filling another entire black bin liner with rubbish. I started marking out the compost pile at the back of the garden and the new one at the back of the garage, with old bricks. Had another bonfire.

Did some gardening in the front this afternoon - I'd got annoyed with the one white-and-purple plant mixed in with the red flower bed, so as one of the purplish plants on the porch was dead, I carefully transplanted the white and purple plant there, and bought a red/orange marigold from the shop opposite Perseus, and put that in its place. It really does look a lot better, rather to my surprise. Also weeded dozens of those chive-like bulbs that spring up everywhere in the front, and got rid of some snails lurking beneath the geranium. Interested to see that the polyanthus which had suffered a lot of snail damage is now back to life and looking healthy - just a week after I put coffee grounds around it.

10th April:

Started shifting the 'compost' next to the garage. Put some around trees, maybe 10 shovelfuls, then realised a lot of it was leaves, not yet compost, so moved it over to under the study window, then swept and tidied the rest. Does look better. May continue tomorrow - not sure about that. Started weeding, mostly the ones where Dan had attacked with a rake yesterday.

It wasn't too hot today - a lovely day, in fact; maybe about 21C in the shade, gorgeous blue sky, sunny but not at all humid. Did some weeding and stick collecting, then moved concrete slabs (several of them) to make little area to bounce a basketball on in front of the net. Started mowing the lawn around 3.30. I mowed the side sections first, since they were the shadiest, then the back part in the shadow of the big tree. Was wondering what to do about the last little patch of long weeds, right outside the old lady's window, since it seems that as soon as we start weeding there she throws things out. 

However while I was mowing, a younger lady opened the window and spoke to me in English, asking if I would hack the weeds there! I said yes, we would and she shut the window again so I didn't get a chance for a conversation, or to ask her to ask the old lady not to throw toilet paper etc out! But it was the encouragement I needed. So when I'd finally finished the mowing - about 6pm - Dan and I set to work hacking the last of the long weeds. R came back as we'd almost finished and said, 'you've won!!' - then helped with the sickle to get the last ones up, and ran the lawnmower over the least stony parts. Lots of stones there to move,but it does look so much better!

Cleo was on the roof of the house this morning when I was hanging out laundry - she went up the tree in the corner, and then peered over at me, almost as if she might jump down. Instead she climbed on the chimney that's over the bathroom. When I went to get my camera she got down, so I didn't get a picture. As ever the cats were out watching us gardening, playing games and leaping about the place. I kept expecting we'd find a nest of mice somewhere in the long weeds, but we didn't.

I can't believe it's really 'finished' - at least from the point of view of being tidier than it's ever been. Still some nettles around the edge, and masses of weeds in the grass, and stones to be moved, but if I do my 500 weeds and 100 stones first thing every morning, and keep mowing at least once a week, it should stay under control. I hope!

16th April:

On Monday the forecast was for rain although it dawned clear and sunny - but by mid-morning the sky had gone grey, and we then had very heavy rain off and on all afternoon. I hadn't watered at the weekend so it was just as well!

Tuesday morning it rained again. Not as heavy as Monday, although there was a lot of thunder. I collected and threw away a load of snails this morning, plus broken glass, as well as moving stones and weeding, and this afternoon I did a bit of weeding in the front garden, as well as moving more of the 'compost' from the side to round trees, and the decaying leaves to outside the guest room. I'm going to move the pile of sand left by the builder to sprinkle over the stone area at the far end of the garden. Moved hundreds of sticks and had yet another bonfire.

17th April:

It was cloudy this morning - warm and a bit humid. After my early-morning weeding etc, I moved a bit more of the 'compost' from the front, putting some around the trees, and the remaining uncomposted leaves etc on the pile outside the study. I'm not so sure this is a good idea, however; a huge snail was on the window first thing this morning, which I knocked off and collected in the bag, but there are bound to be snails in the decomposing stuff, and I don't suppose it's that good for the walls of the house to have all that damp stuff piled against them. 

I might move this 'heap' somewhere else. I'm thinking of having three compost heaps on the go: this one (wherever it ends up) is the one where I won't add anything at all new, and will then hope to use around trees in the Autumn. The one by the back of the garden along the wall has obviously had loads of new weeds, couch-grass etc, and I do add to it little weeds from between the stones, but I'm not going to add anything else to it, and then hope to use that in the spring next year, assuming we're still here of course. Then the one in the corner between the far end of the garage and the old lady's house, which I'm currently adding household waste to as well as weeds etc, should be OK to use 18 months from now, if I stop adding to it in the Autumn, and start a new one to replace the one we use up. Good theory, I think… wonder if I'll actually do it!!

18th April:

There have been one or two minor showers - just spitting, really - and it was very overcast, but it's also quite windy. Remarkable for this time of year to be so pleasantly cool, still. Although it's Good Friday in the Western calendar, it's an ordinary day in Cyprus (Good Friday being next week in the Eastern calendar) so the buses are running. Daniel went to Limassol on the bus, as he'd agreed to take part in the Limassol International Fellowship Good Friday service in the evening. Strangely enough it's the first time any of us have used a bus out here, although we used them a lot back in Birmingham. They're more like coaches, really, and only run every couple of hours, but inexpensive.

19th April:

I did some more gardening and lit a bonfire as the bin had got completely full of sticks. The man next door also had a very smokey bonfire, burning weeds. The old lady next door (other side) is getting annoying - I picked up the usual single piece of dirty toilet paper when I did the snail-collect (and also other bits of rubbish from around the garden) but by lunchtime she'd thrown out eight more. Yuck. I put those in a bag and put them with the dustbin.. only to find yet another later on. Wish I knew what to do about it. Dan got back on the bus mid-afternoon, having had a recorder consort rehearsal in the morning.

23rd April:

Today we went to get a wheelbarrow. Found that the Christou Bros shop has moved to large and very smart new premises, now like a hardware supermarket. Spent the morning using the wheelbarrow: I moved about half of the composting pile that was outside the study window to a new spot at the end of the garage. Under the rotting leaves it looks like there's some compost made already, so I tidied that up a bit, and decided to leave it a few more days before putting it around some trees. 

I read a lot about compost heaps online - there's quite an art to it, apparently. So I piled this one alternating the rotting leaves with some couch-grass from around some trees, from recent weeds. Apparently that aerates it somewhat. Also it's supposed to be good to put small bits of paper ina compost pile..so that's what I'll do with the coffee filters, after I empty coffee grounds around plants, and also with the old lady's yucky toilet paper, which she is still throwing out, about three or four per day. At least it can go to a good use now!

24th April:

Another day mostly in the garden! In the afternoon Tim cut some more grass, and I did the side bits. I moved 5 barrows full of 'compost' from outside the study to around various trees, and also tipped some over the gap where there used to be a lemon tree, outside the old lady's bathroom. Looks like that's about half the heap - so another 4-5 barrowloads still to be moved. In one of the loads of compost, I saw loads of woodlice and got worried, thinking they might eat the roots of the tree. 

I went to check online for ways of getting rid of woodlice, only to learn that in fact they're good for the soil - they aid in decay of rotting matter, apparently, and are considered an essential part of an organic garden. I couldn't quite believe this at first, but it said much the same in several sites. They don't attack living plants, apparently. So that's all encouraging, and should ensure that the almost-compost turns into real compost!

25th April:

Today was Good Friday in the Eastern calendar. Tim was playing piano at the Greek Evangelical church Good Friday service with the youth group band. Dan was playing clarinet with the Municipal Band at 9pm, slow-marching from St Lazarus Church through to the end of Hermes Street, after which flower-strewn coffins would be carried from some of the other churches, followed by a short ceremony in Greek. I didn't go this year. 

Easter Monday lunch cooked in the open air for many hoursOn Monday, we'll be celebrating Greek Easter with a shared meal in the Greek Evangelical Church grounds. This will include meat which has been slow-cooked in the traditional style in an outdoor stone oven, and is always delicious!

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